Drug dependence is considered a multi-factorial health disorder that often follows the course of a relapsing and remitting chronic disease. Given the individual and socio-economic burden inflicted by drug dependence, the effective treatment and rehabilitation of patients is of significant public health importance.
According to the 2022 World Drug Report (WDR), over the past year, around 284 million people have used drugs, with approximately 38.6 million suffering from drug use disorders (DUDs). Yet approximately only one in eight problem drug users have access to drug dependence treatment services - thus pointing to the large gap in service provision that still remains to be closed. The magnitude of the suffering caused by drug use disorders is underlined by approximately 18 million years of healthy life lost, mostly due to opioids (WDR 2021).
Global public health approaches in drug dependence treatment and care have been the springboard of existing good practices and remain the most fertile ground for the development of innovative and effective responses. The best results are achieved when a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, which includes diversified pharmacological and psychosocial interventions, is available to respond to the different needs of the patient. Even taking into account the requirements for the delivery of evidence-based treatment, its costs are much lower than the indirect costs caused by untreated drug dependence (prisons, unemployment, law enforcement, health consequences). Research studies indicate that for every $US 1 invested in evidence-based treatment, up to $US 7 are saved in terms of costs for drug-related crime and criminal justice costs alone. When savings related to health care are included, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.